"I wish I had been wrong": Miles Taylor on the dire threat of Trump 2.0

Trump regime's anonymous whistleblower says the ex-president is now "more unhinged" and even more dangerous

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published April 15, 2024 5:45AM (EDT)

Donald Trump watching democracy burn (Getty Images/Salon)
Donald Trump watching democracy burn (Getty Images/Salon)

Donald Trump’s first criminal trial is finally scheduled to begin this week in Manhattan, on charges of paying hush money to adult-film performer Stormy Daniels. With three other criminal cases pending in Florida, Georgia and Washington, D.C., the corrupt ex-president faces at least the hypothetical possibility of incarceration, in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars he already owes in civil penalties and legal expenses. As a practical matter, given Trump’s advanced age and his precarious political position, a prison sentence in any of these criminal trials would be likely to end his career in public life and amount to a de facto life sentence.

Salon columnist Brian Karem recently cut straight to the heart of what Trump faces in his upcoming trials:

While he faces charges related to insurrection, election denial and classified documents that sound extremely frightening, and are, there is no doubt about the facts in the Manhattan district attorney’s case against Trump. They are solid. Rock solid. … Having researched this for months, it’s obvious what was done and why. And right now, Trump will do anything to keep from facing those charges because he knows exactly what he did. If you’ve ever seen “My Cousin Vinny,” you also know that through discovery Trump has all the factual information that will be presented against him.

On background, one of the people close to the prosecution maintains that “Trump is toast.”

His only hope is to find one juror who loves him and will see it his way. In Manhattan, that’s not a likelihood. So, the next few weeks Donald will remain extremely tense, cornered and frightened. And we all know the danger of cornering a New York sewer rat.

But in many ways, Trump’s criminal trials are a type of anticlimax. For decades, he has shown himself to have wanton disregard for the law and the rules of normal society — and to this point has been able to escape serious consequences for his antisocial behavior. But perhaps the most vexing aspect of Trump’s crime spree as president is how many people within his administration personally witnessed his lawless and dangerous behavior yet remained silent. Sometimes these high-ranking members of the Trump regime were praised by the media and other observers as “adults in the room” for supposedly moderating Trump’s behavior. Their power to accomplish that has been greatly exaggerated, both then and now.

These same so-called adults, such as former White House chief of staff John Kelly, are now admitting publicly that Trump’s danger to America and the world was far worse than was generally known. In a recent interview with CNN, Kelly confirmed that Trump had expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler.

Unlike many others at the highest levels of Trump’s regime, Miles Taylor, who served as chief of staff in the Department of Homeland Security, spoke out early about Trump's unfitness for office, as author of the 2018 New York Times “Anonymous” editorial. Since then, Taylor has written two books, “A Warning” and “Blowback: A Warning to Save Democracy from Trump’s Revenge.” His new paperback edition of “Blowback” has just been published, incorporating an argument that Trump's second administration will be far more competent and formidable in its assault on American democracy and the rule of law than the first one was.

I recently interviewed Miles Taylor. This is the first installment in a two-part conversation. 

How are you feeling, given recent events? Trumpism endures. He appears to be tied with Biden in the polls. Russia’s war against Ukraine continues. The Middle East is on the verge of a wider regional war.

These are tumultuous times, and it's hard not to feel a mix of concern and responsibility. Almost every day it seems like we’re witnessing the fragility of our democratic institutions and the ongoing threats to stability. This isn’t just a Donald Trump phenomenon. Populism is here to stay, and it will be the greatest test of human freedom in the modern age.

You recently emailed me to say that we need to talk because “things have changed” regarding the danger of Donald Trump. What did you mean by that?

Last year, I released this book to explain in precise detail what would happen if Trump or another MAGA figure retook the White House, including the specific ways they would weaponize American government against their foes. Many people dismissed the warning. 

Trump is "more unhinged. Second, he’s less restrained by semi-rational advisers, most of whom are gone. And third, he has vastly more command and influence over his followers and the GOP than ever before. Add those up."

I wish I had been wrong, but Donald Trump has borne out my predictions. Since the publication of "Blowback," he has let slip his true intentions again and again. Trump admitted he wanted to use the Justice Department against his enemies if re-elected, saying the “genie” had already been let “out of the box.” He admitted he would purge civil servants en masse, vowing “retribution” to “destroy the deep state” by “firing all of the corrupt actors in our National Security and Intelligence apparatus.” He admitted he would reinstate policies like the so-called travel ban to the United States that would be “even bigger than before.” He hinted that he would seek to deploy the military on U.S. soil to enforce his edicts. (“The next time, I’m not waiting.”) He even admitted he would govern like a dictator, at least on “Day One.”

Trump’s first criminal trial will apparently begin this week. Do you think it's possible that he issued himself a pardon as president, and will try to unveil it if convicted for his federal crimes — and likely other crimes too? To anticipate the incredulity of those who are still in denial about the reality of this situation, Donald Trump does not care about the law, institutions or norms of any kind.

This possibility has been way under-covered. I certainly think it’s possible. It would be yet another aspect of this ongoing drama that would create legal chaos. I suspect it wouldn’t hold up in the courts — but not before millions of his supporters rally to his defense.

You know Donald Trump and worked with him during his first term. When you look at his behavior at present, what do you see? How is it similar or different?

Three differences: First, he’s more unhinged. Second, he’s less restrained by semi-rational advisers, most of whom are gone. And third, he has vastly more command and influence over his followers and the GOP than ever before. Add those up. The sum is one of the greatest dangers to America in the modern age.

What version of Donald Trump are we seeing now?

His apparent cognitive decline is evident. The man is unwell. More alarming than that, he sees winning the presidency as life-and-death. In his mind, if he loses, he’s liable to lose his fortune, his freedom and his future. Literally. He’s rightfully worried he’ll go to prison if he doesn’t retake power and try to use that power to prevent such an outcome. You do the math. A man like that is more dangerous than any presidential candidate in American history.

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You chose to speak out much earlier than many of your fellow members of the Trump administration about his danger. Now we are hearing, years later, from people who were close to Trump in the regime, as with John Kelly revealing that Trump idolized Hitler. Others are saying that they knew well before Jan. 6 what he was capable of. As I see it, these people have little moral authority or credibility. Why did they wait so long to speak out?

Citizens should be wary of a leader who claims to be a “man of the people” but quietly detests them, who brags about being a strategic genius but is impulsive, who styles himself as a dealmaker but readily breaks promises, who claims subordinates are devoted with “unconditional loyalty” but is paranoid about a disloyal bureaucracy conspiring against him, who is charming in private but pugilistic in public, who calls for jailing opponents but frets about going to jail, who manipulates the media for personal gain but attacks the “lying press” as enemies, who vows to root out corruption but abuses official powers, who knows that small lies aren’t believable but “big lies” become gospel, and who pledges to make the country great again while plotting to sabotage its very foundations.

This is not Donald Trump. This is a description of Adolf Hitler. I’ll let other people interpret the similarities.

"His apparent cognitive decline is evident. The man is unwell. More alarming than that, he sees winning the presidency as life-and-death. In his mind, if he loses, he’s liable to lose his fortune, his freedom and his future."

Regarding speaking out: It’s never too late to do the right thing. I don’t begrudge folks who are coming to the game late. We need them, and we should offer the opportunity for redemption. The truth is most of them aren't “getting rich” by speaking out. Folks say the same about me — like being on TV and publishing books about Trump has made me wealthy. It’s the opposite. I don’t get paid to go on TV to talk about these issues, and I donated the profits from my book "A Warning" (I’d be a lot better off if I hadn’t). Speaking out cost me my home, a high-paying job, relationships, my life savings and my family’s security. We still endure death threats. We had to go into hiding and live in a safe house under armed guard. That ain’t the good life. And a lot of the ex-Trumpers who came forward have, or will, endure the same.

Trump has been clear and direct with his threats to prosecute and imprison his “enemies,” or perhaps do worse than that. This should be a much bigger story. A former president, now the de facto 2024 Republican presidential nominee, who is tied with the incumbent in the polls, is publicly announcing he will be a dictator who imprisons and seeks to execute his political foes.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Hitler’s plans were similarly feared and foretold before he cemented his grip on power. Military officials said his future was “a dark one”; elected leaders warned that he would “bring Germany to disaster”; intellectuals envisaged the “disappearance of German democracy”; public officials worried dissenters would be “gagged”; reporters expected “tyranny internally” and “world war” as a result of his actions; and foreign correspondents foresaw bloodshed, telling Jews in the country: “Get out, fast.” Donald Trump is not Adolf Hitler. The differences are vast. But the similarities here should give us extraordinary pause.

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How are you feeling given that you are most certainly on Trump’s enemies list? Are you afraid?

I often get asked what I think about being targeted by Trump in a second term. The answer is that I don’t. Nothing’s a better antidote for fear than the truth. Because whatever happens to me, I’m comfortable knowing there’s no way Donald Trump can erase the fact that I helped expose his true nature.

Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans have elevated the Jan. 6 terrorists to the level of martyrs, heroes and “political prisoners.” Your thoughts?

I can’t justify it with a response. Suffice it to say those thugs and criminals earned their sentences — and then some. 

In an earlier conversation with me, you described Donald Trump as basically stupid and lazy. But what about the people around him who are intelligent and devious, and who will use Trump and the power he gives them to create an authoritarian regime and end democracy, as detailed in the Project 2025 and Agenda 47 plans?

Trump is a reckless fool. But history has shown us that the only people more destructive than such impulsive leaders are the slavish supplicants who surround them. Trump will have many in a second term. They could be the architects of democracy’s undoing.

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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